My Position Regarding Music Re-stated
By Evangelist Paul Mershon
June 26, 2012
Note: When someone misrepresents another brother or sister in Christ, I think it imperative that an answer be given by way of clarification. Such was the case when I learned that a professing Christian wrote to the well-known editor of a periodical, author of several books, and editor of an internet ministry that is seen and read by many fundamentalists. The information shared in this dear man’s communication was without basis in fact, was distorted, and wholly misrepresented the truth. At issue was this matter of music, especially the controversy surrounding contemporary Christian music and how it is being employed by some independent Baptist churches around the country. By association, my personal position regarding music has been brought into question without any justification. Though I am not in the habit of defending myself against unscriptural accusations, I felt it important that I once again make my position clear as to where I stand with regard to music. With this in mind, I have here republished an article that I ran last year in order to clarify my thoughts on this subject. If you have any questions about this article or its contents, I would invite you to write to me any thoughts that you might have.
Editor’s Opening Thoughts
I have been engaged in a number of conversations in recent days regarding the issue of music and the debate that has been swirling around independent Baptist circles of fellowship over the course of the past couple of years. I had a protracted phone conversation with one pastor, a lengthy conversation with a missionary, and emails as well. It has become apparent that there is a renewed dialogue going on throughout fundamentalism about this matter of music. This is not a bad thing as long as the discussion is amicable and gracious and other doctrinal matters of equal importance are not minimized and given less attention.
There have been any number of men who have written articles discussing music, some in an academic way, and others in a highly charged and emotional way. There is no question that there are varying opinions regarding music and how it is employed in the local church. For some, music is a matter of preference and taste, while for others music is neutral and just about any music form is okay for the local assembly as long as it contains Christian lyrics. There are a multitude of opinions and positions that cover a broad spectrum of thought when it comes to what constitutes good music, and what constitutes bad music. Some men are more flexible when it comes to music, and others are un-moveable, convinced that their position is the only right position. Some men say that the Word of God does not prescribe what music form is acceptable in the sight of God while others say that it does. Some would have us believe that music is not a doctrinal matter while others say that it most certainly is. Like anything else, surely the Word of the Living God has instruction regarding music.
It seems to me that the controversy over music has come pretty close to replacing the battle over the King James Bible as the current hot-button issue that is dominating conversation amongst fundamentalists today. I have spoken to this issue several times over the years, and have tried to remain on balance in my approach to this subject.
Over the course of my years in revival work, I have been in many independent Baptist churches and have found that the vast majority of them, with a few rare exceptions, employ conservative traditional music. Some are stronger than others, but few have been way off the mark. On the rare occasion, when I have been with a church for a revival meeting where the music was a bit questionable, I have found that it has been due to a lack of knowledge and understanding as opposed to a blatant disregard for a better biblical standard. It is important to give these churches some space and understanding. When appropriate, and as the Lord has opened the door to do so, I will discuss what I have observed with the pastor as a friend and a source of help to him.
The discussion about music is nothing new, but has been ongoing off-and-on over the past few decades. The dialogue has heated up once again, and sides are being taken as expose ministries point fingers and those being pointed at defend themselves. It can get pretty tense at times, and many good men are divided over just how to address this important subject. As with any topic affecting the local New Testament church, having a spirit of grace and kindness will go a long way in addressing this matter of music. Speaking the truth in love is always paramount. So when dealing with the issue of music, we must understand that many people within the ranks of modern fundamentalism do not understand what constitutes good music. The culture has conditioned them to have a different ear than the saints of old. Tenderness and patience will go a long way in instructing God’s people, and it is the responsibility of the pastor to instruct the flock.
Just as with any other issue, I believe we can become shrill in the defense of our position, and though there is no question that music is of great importance to biblical practice, it can become a hobby-horse issue that dominates much of our time. Nonetheless, it is imperative that a Scriptural stand be taken, and we are gracious and kind in the way we approach this subject. We also need to give space to good men who may not entirely agree with us and not make enemies of them because they do not agree. I do not fully agree with some of the conclusions other men have come to when it comes to music, but I am not their enemy. Nothing is gained by becoming antagonistic and overly pointed to the degree that we are unable to maintain a right spirit towards those who are not on the same frequency with us.
Some latitude must be given when discussing the issue of music as not all men will have the same understanding or convictions that I might have when it comes to this matter. I have learned that one cannot shove truth about any issue or subject down the throats of others. The servant of the Lord must be gentle and careful in his apologetic when it comes to any ecclesiastical matter. “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient” (2 Timothy 2:24). I confess that I have not appreciated the tone of some of the men who have addressed the issue of music in recent days. I have come to realize that there are many good churches that are otherwise separated and doctrinally correct not always understanding this thing of music. A battering ram approach in addressing the matter is not only unproductive, but it is totally unscriptural. I am reminded that the music employed by any independent, fundamental Baptist church is a matter of local church prerogative whether I agree with it or not, and I must respect that prerogative when in personal disagreement with a church’s music choices. Challenging folks about their music does little good, but being a friend to those with differing views on music will go a long way if the Lord allows us to enter into a discussion with them about their music choices.
With all of this in mind, I felt it good to share with you the following lengthy article I wrote in 2001 addressing this matter of music. I trust it will be helpful to you. Rather than writing my thoughts as a rant, I thought it imperative that what I wrote be informative and educational rather than confrontational. I am in no way an expert when it comes to music, so I want to make that disclaimer right from the start. I was raised in a home where classical music was appreciated, but as a rebellious child of the 50s and 60s, I had a penchant for rock ‘n roll music. Several members of my family were musicians, two at the professional level. I played the trumpet and coronet as a young man, but have not played these instruments in many years. I had the honor of singing in the United States Navy Bluejacket’s Choir, served as the senior recruit choir master, and sang in various chorus groups, quartets and choirs. My daughter is an accomplished musician, and all of my grandchildren have learned to play instruments. My three granddaughters sang as a trio, and one is an accomplished soloist. My wife has a wonderful singing voice and has taken some voice lessons. So I know a little bit about music, though none of this qualifies me as an “expert” in any way. But there are several godly and balanced men with the right spirit who are indeed genuine experts on the subject of music. Their thoughts regarding music are very helpful in understanding what constitutes good music, and what constitutes bad music.
The following article has been written after much prayerful study and is in no way the final word on music.
(Singing a New Song)
By Evangelist Paul Mershon
“He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust the LORD.” (Psalm 40:2-3)
Singing and music need to be a vital part of the life of a growing Christian. The Bible teaches that all things have been created, not only by God, but also for Him and His pleasure (Rev. 4:11).
This applies to the realm of music. The Bible has much to say about Christian music. In fact, there are over five hundred references to music in the Word of God. When in Ephesians 5:18 we are commanded to be filled with the Sprit, we are also commanded to speak to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our heart to the Lord. Christians, then, are to sing to themselves with a melody in their heart.
Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” We are to sing to others and sing with others! Psalm 89:1 – “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever.” 2 Samuel 22:50 – “I will sing praises unto thy name.” Psalm 119:54 – “Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.” Job 35:10 - “But none saith, Where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night?” Hebrews 2:12 – “I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” Revelation 5:9 – “And they sang as it were a new song before the throne . . .” Not only should we speak to ourselves in the psalms and hymns and sing to others, but Psalm 98:1 tells us, “O sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvelous things.” And Psalm 100: 1,2 says, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.” The book of Psalms is the national hymnbook of Israel. It contains 150 poems to be set to music for worship. The Hebrew title of this book is “Praise” or the “Book of Praises.” Fifty-three of the Psalms are addressed to the “chief musician,” and Psalm 7, 30, 48, 83, 87, 88, 92, 108 are listed as “songs.”
God Himself is the originator of music . . . Man, made in the image of God, is also musical. Everything about you is rhythmic. There is order and timing in our steps and your walk. Your heart beats in regular time and rhythm. Now God placed in man alone the ability to understand, develop, and appreciate this unique gift of music. Man has two choices: he can either use this gift to the glory of God and the blessing of his fellow man, or he can exploit it for sensual gratification and the debasement of others.
Music has as much potential for evil as it has for good. Ezekiel 28:13 says, “The workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou was created.” These words are in reference to Satan.. This means Satan was originally created to be an angelic being of praise and adoration to God; he was a veritable musical instrument. But he turned all that potential for beauty inward and fell victim to his own pride and ambition. Perhaps this explains why many people are so easily enthralled by sensuous music or a fleshly expression of it. The result is that, rather than being a blessing to mankind, music often becomes a curse - ‘noise’ that God refuses to hear! (From “Heritage of Music” by David Bowler)
As with any other issue confronting Bible-believing Christian people today, it is so very important to determine what constitutes good music that is well-pleasing to the Lord, and what constitutes bad music that only serves to please the flesh. All “Christian” music is not necessarily Christian, either in content or form. That is why you must, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2:15)
CHARACTERISTICS OF MUSIC:
Music is a VERY POWERFUL FORCE, both for good and evil. Tell me what kind of music you like to sing, listen to, plan, compose, or perform, and I will tell you what kind of person you are. Tell me who your favorite musicians and singers are, and I will be able to tell something about your character. Tell me what music form draws you, and I can tell much about your walk with the Lord.
. . . music is used everywhere to condition the human mind. Hitler used Wagner to win the German masses to Nazism. Our future music may be a frequency machine feeding impulses to our nervous system through electrodes or the ear, giving us highs and lows more powerful than any drugs in use today. (copied)
The dental and medical sciences have discovered that various forms of music played at varying degrees of amplification can either reduce pain, or produce it. Music is a powerful force to be reckoned with.
Heavy Metal rock music has been used quite effectively in psychological warfare. Played over and over and over at high levels of amplification, inhibitions are broken down, along with normal, rational thinking abilities. The senses are altered to the degree that mind-control and mental manipulation are far easier to establish.
Music plays a very great role in the New Age movement worldwide.
Music has the power to establish the moral compass of entire nations, societies, and cultures.
Music is intrinsically religious. Every religion has its music forms. A religion gone bad, or bad from the start, has bad music at its core, or as a byproduct of an apostasizing direction.
One of the 25 primary goals of communism designed to break down the moral fiber of Christian societies in the western world was to infiltrate the music industry at every level, aiding and abetting the production of music forms that would destroy the morals and traditional values of young people, fomenting rebellion and anti-authoritarian thinking, the likes of which have never been seen in the annals of man. Take note that many of the elements of this kind of music have found their way into the contemporary “Christian” music pieces of our day.
QUOTES REGARDING THE CHARACTERISTICS OF MUSIC:
Biblical examples are not lacking as evidence to the moral value of music and its effect on people. In the 32nd chapter of Exodus, we find the children of Israel, God’s chosen people, playing, singing, and dancing to the wrong kind of music while engaging in moral impurity. In fact, when Joshua heard the “noise” in the camp (actually immoral music), he said to Moses, “there is a NOISE OF WAR IN THE CAMP!!” (vs. 17) Moses responded by saying that it was not the noise of war, but the “noise of them that sing.”
On the other hand, we find in such passages as Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16-17 the proper moral and spiritual value of music as a means of, not only glorifying God, but also edifying and encouraging believers.
Other examples of the use and effects of music would certainly include David’s cunning abilities on the harp used by King Saul to soothe his spirit and drive the evil spirit from him (I Samuel 16:23).
Music is recorded as having been used as a prelude to battle in II Chronicles 20:19-28. Music formed an integral part of the Temple worship as indicated in II Chronicles 5:12-14. Music was also used to comfort during times of sadness and mourning (Job 30:31). (copied)
GOOD MUSIC FORM:
1. Volume changes (loud to soft)
2. Tempo Changes
3. Rhythmic changes
4. Melody clearly distinguishable
5. Changing harmony
6. Modulation (key changes)
9. Main emphasis is on the melody line and development of the same.
10. Rhythmic emphasis on the down beat
11. Variations in intensity (tension-relaxation-tension-relaxation, etc.)
BAD MUSIC FORM:
1. Volume the same (generally all loud - high decibel levels break down and interfere with thinking and reasoning)
2. Tempo the same with little or no change.
3. Rhythm the same or too many at the same time.
4. Melody often lost among the intense beat or volume.
5. Little harmony; much dissonance (a mingling of discordant sounds - a clashing or unresolved musical interval or chord)
6. Same key throughout
7. REPETITION! Same chord changes and same wording over and over again throughout the entire piece of music. This music form has a tendency to be almost hypnotic in application.
8. Jumbled; poorly organized
9. Main emphasis on the volume, beat and rhythm rather than the melody line.
10. Rhythmic emphasis is on syncopation (to modify a piece of music by displacing NORMAL accents to create rhythmic contradiction.
Syncopation in music means “to modify a piece of music by displacing NORMAL accents to create rhythmic contradiction. The term “contradiction” means to ”be logically inconsistent with.” In all good music forms, the normal accents are on the first and third beats (in a 4/4 meter). In all bad music forms frequently those normal accents are translated to the abnormal second and fourth beats.
Syncopation, in and of itself, as a musical device, IS NOT WRONG. It is the MISUSE and ABUSE of this device that we believe is wrong.
Consider the following quote:
Our bodies are even rhythmic in nature. Our heart has a “beat.” In fact, without the “beat,” we would be corpses. Life cannot exist without rhythm. The heart has a regular beat pattern during which the blood is being pumped in and out. The main beat is known as “systolic,” with the blood being pumped from the left ventricle to the body. This occurs on “beat 1.” The secondary beat is known as the “diastolic,” and occurs as the blood is being pumped from the right ventricle to the lungs for oxygen. This occurs on “beat 3.” The normal pulse rate is between 60 and 90. Now, remember that “good” music emphasized the first and third beats in the rhythmic pattern (when the meter is 4/4) which is a normal, natural biological pattern. On the other hand, the rhythmic emphasis of bad music is on the syncopated beat, or the “abnormal” second and fourth beats. Therefore, the rhythmic pattern . . . . is NOT synchronization with the beat of the heart. The MM (metronome markings which indicate the pace of speed) of most bad music are between 70 and90; right within the “normal” pulse range. Keeping the same basic time, or tempo, with the body rhythm, but emphasizing the “abnormal” beats creates tension, confusion, and with extended exposure, can actually cause the blood pressure to rise. Thus, in the long run, those who are exposed to the ultra-loud syncopated sounds of bad music can experience long term nervous and emotional problems. They actually experience a musical “high.” (copied)
I have found that when a people begin to abandon sound doctrinal practice, sound music is abandoned also. There is a tendency to adopt the music forms and styles of the world. One may include all of the “Christian” lyrics in a piece of music with the wrong kind of beat and rhythm, and that does not make it “Christian” any more than parking a Schwinn bicycle in your garage will turn it into a Buick. God’s people must not take a cavalier attitude towards music. We need to search the Scriptures for sound doctrinal answers to this very important issue. Satan, as the “master musician” and “choir master” of heaven, when he fell, sought to profane the very thing with which he was charged to glorify the Lord. As with everything else the Lord has created for the blessing of his creation, Satan has always sought to pervert and corrupt that which was meant for good.
I love and enjoy good Gospel quartet music. For years I have listened to the old Gospel quartets. But, I am finding that there has been a change of direction in that musical format over the years that has been unsettling. There has been a steady increase of rock and roll influence that has changed the face of quartet music, and this especially so in the case of Southern Gospel music.
When it comes to music, we need to do two specific things:
1. COMPARE SPIRITUAL THINGS WITH SPIRITUAL THINGS
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; COMPARING SPIRITUAL THINGS WITH SPIRITUAL.” (I Corinthians 2:12-13)
2. TRY THE SPIRITS
“BELOVED, believe not every spirit, but TRY THE SPIRITS whether they are of God. . .” (I John 4:1a)
I am not for “dead” music that has a “funeral dirge” meter that deadens the spirit, nor am I for the “High Church” formalistic music that is found in liturgical circles. I am not for music sung in the minor key which is so common to the Russian believers. I am for sacred music, but not joyless music that lacks the majesty that we associate with Christ Jesus. But, I AM NOT for any music form with a beat that is sensual, worldly, or could be danced to. Remember, there was something different about the “praise and worship” music Aaron allowed in the absence of Moses whilst he was up on the mount receiving the law. Their “worship” service was in honor of their false god, in commemoration with their “golden calf religion”. This music must have incited all sorts of wickedness. They were found to be naked, dancing lewdly, engaged in sexual debauchery, and all sorts of wild wickedness. Their slide into spiritual apostasy and religious chaos surely dictated a change in their music. Think about that! Check it out in Exodus 32, AND COMPARE SPIRITUAL WITH SPIRITUAL. God help us to know the difference between that which is holy and unholy.
“And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean.” (Leviticus 10:10)
As God’s people hunger and thirst less and less for the Lord, they will naturally hunger and thirst for that which duplicates the world and pleases the flesh. This may be especially true when it comes to music. My beloved friends, please consider this truth.
A TESTIMONY TO THE BLESSING OF GOOD, SPIRITUAL MUSIC:
Over and over again, I have seen the power of singing to defeat Satan and to overcome emotional bondage that he may have led us into. Discouragement, fear, anxiety, depression, grief - in many cases, these will flee as we sing to the Lord. On occasion, I felt as if an enormous dark cloud were hanging over my spirit. Invariably, as I have sung to the Lord - sometimes with a trembling voice - the cloud has lifted and the sunlight of His sweet peace and grace has poured in, quickening and encouraging my heart. (Nancy Leigh DeMoss - “A Place of Quiet Rest”)
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE RIGHT KIND OF MUSIC:
Many people think that our choice of music doesn’t really matter. It’s just a matter of taste. Music is neither good nor bad; it’s how you use it that matters. This simply is not so. Music (even without lyrics) contains a message. Just as an artist conveys a message with his painting, so a composer with his music. The paint, of course, is neither good nor bad (morally speaking), but the picture could be quite bad. Even so, musical notes are morally “neutral,” but arranged in a musical composition, their harmony, rhythm, and melody can tell quite a story. Christians must be careful to choose to sing and listen to music that conveys the proper message. The message must not be prideful, sensual, or carnal.
So the question that demands an answer is simply this: “Is this song right or wrong?” Perhaps the best way to answer that is by asking a different question such as: “What music is the best?” In heaven, the angels sing praises unto God and that music would have to be the best of all music. We also know that there is satanic music. The same principles of melody, harmony, and rhythm that govern godly music, also govern satanic music. Our earthly music will tend to be pulled between the pull of the world’s music and the true heavenly music. We should be constantly asking ourselves if our music could be closer to that which Jesus Christ would approve, and it is reasonable to assume that God would show us how the basic components of music should be arranged to glorify Him. In Colossians 3, we find four concepts by which we can judge all music. Now in the context, the Christian is admonished to seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. The Christian is first to set (his) affection on the things above, not on things on the earth. Secondly, he is to mortify (put to death) (his) members which are upon the earth; and thirdly, he is to put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him. Fourthly, he is to let the Word of Christ dwell in (him) richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in (him) heart to the Lord; and last, he is to be sure that whatsoever (he does) in word or deed, (he does) it all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God and the Father by him. From this passage we learn four things that are necessary for godly singing unto the Lord and each other . . . .
First, THE MAN MUST BE RIGHT. The composer and the performer MUST BE RIGHT WITH GOD. . .Secondly, the message must be right. The singing is to “teach and admonish” truth. A message that teaches false doctrine is heresy . . . Thirdly, the music itself must be right. . . The fourth and last thing necessary for right music is the motive must be right. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” Why we do things will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ. When a singer sings to glorify himself, that is a form of hypocrisy. The question we must continually ask about our music is this, “Is God saying Amen, or just the congregation?” (From “The Heritage of Music” by David Bowler)
CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING THOUGHTS ABOUT THE CONSTRUCTION AND EFFECTS OF MUSIC:
1. Referring back to Part One of this series of articles on music, we discussed the musical principle of “syncopation”, of the modifying of a piece of music by displacing normal accents to create rhythmic contradiction. Rhythmic contradiction is inconsistent with all good music forms. Syncopated, eight-to-the-bar rhythms are present in every form of BAD MUSIC. This form of music appeals to the sensual and baser nature of man. It is the kind of music that tends to draw out the fallen nature of man. It appeals to the carnal emotions, and does not have spiritual content. It is not music that points our hearts and minds to Christ.
2. In Africa, the heathen are able to play “poly rhythms.” Poly means “many.” They have all these drums and other percussion instruments, rhythm instruments that all make different sounds, and they can hear them. They can make one rhythm with their feet, another with their torso, some more with their arms, and some with their fingers and wrists, some more with their heads; and they can dance six or seven rhythms at one time. It is an amazing thing; however it is all sensual; IT’S ALL FOR THE BODY; AND IT’S ALL CREATED BY THEIR ABILITY TO HEAR AND PUT INTO THEIR BODIES THOSE DANCE RHYTHMS THAT WERE CREATED SPECIFICALLY TO MAKE THEIR BODIES MOVE IN WAYS THAT ARE NOT POLITE. They make the body move to draw attention to parts of the body in a way that is improper. (Alan Ives - “The Difference Between Good and Bad Music”)
3. A number of years ago, scientists performed an experiment with plants that generated some amazing results. They placed live, healthy plants in soundproof containers. Inside these containers they placed audio speakers. Over these speakers they played music. In one container they played HEALTHY, NORMAL MUSIC. In the other container they played ABNORMAL MUSIC WITH THE EMPHASIS ON THE SYNCOPATED BEAT, OR THE SECOND AND FOURTH BEATS. The plants in the container where the good music was played flourished and grew. The plants in the container where the bad music was played DIED! In fact, the plants to which the good music was played actually grew towards the audio speaker. The plants to which the bad music was played grew away from the audio speaker before they died. They were trying to escape it before it destroyed them! (Sounds like plants might be smarter than humans!) If syncopated music does this to simple life forms, what then does it do to humans? And this “bad music” is to be found in much of what is being called “Christian music” today.
4. In Pavlov’s experiment with the dogs, he set up two metronomes. One metronome was calibrated at 60 beats a minute. The other metronome at 120 beats a minute. He placed a dish of food before a dog and ran the metronome at 60 beats a minute. After a number of cycles of this exercise, the dog was programmed sufficiently to know that when he heard the 60 beats a minute that meant food. Then, Pavlov placed an empty dish before the dog, and ran the metronome at 120 beats a minute. After a number of evolutions of this exercise the dog was programmed to understand that 120 a minute meant no food. Then the two metronomes were wet to run together, one at 60 beats a minute and the other at 120 beats a minute. The confusion of the two beats superimposed in this manner so disoriented the dog that he soon went completely mad! Generally speaking, almost all “bad” syncopated music has the elements of the 60/120 beat. Many Christians are exposed to it on a regular basis via the various forms “Christian” music they listen to that contains the rock beat, or a beat that comes very close to the rock beat. Percussion instrumentation is key in this factor, for it is percussion that usually establishes the foundation for the rhythmic contradiction in a musical piece.
5. A dear young woman was playing a recording of her favorite Gospel music performers, and as she listened to it, she began to sway and move her body in a sensual manner, literally dancing to the tune that purported to be “Christian” in content. Though some of the lyrics were not bad, the music certainly was. Any music form, no matter what it claims to be or represent, that would incite sensual body movements, IS NOT good music, nor is it Christian. Sadly, much of the popular gospel music being played and listened to today, even by good fundamental people, has a sensual lilt. If the “Christian” music you listen to affects your senses in such a way as to influence the kind of bodily responses that would not be pleasing to the Lord, you need to think about what is wrong with it.
Now rhythm is that which moves the body, so it ought to be easy to determine its role in biblical music. The word “rhythm” is derived from the Greek word HAREO meaning “shall flow” found in John 7:38. Rhythm is necessary to life. A human body without rhythm is a dead body. Music without rhythm is dead music. A human body in which the rhythm is messed up is a sick body. A music in which the rhythm is messed up is a sick music. Just as the heart determines the body’s pulse, so the music’s pulse is determined by the rhythm. A heart that goes wild in pulsation is a sick heart, which will produce a sick body. The same is true of music. Music with uncontrolled rhythm is sick music. In godly music, there are biblical principles to follow in determining the place of rhythm in our music . . . the rhythm is to be in subjection to the harmony and melody. You see, when the melody is destroyed, so is the message. It will affect only the mind and body, but not the spirit. When both melody and harmony are destroyed, the only thing left is the body. Carnality is having the flesh control our lives. When our music, even if sung by Christians with a Christian message, is such that it appeals to our body but not our spirit and mind, we have carnal music. Am I saying that it is wrong to have music affect our bodies? No, but it must be in perspective. Music should lift our spirits to God first, then appeal to our intellects; then, lastly, it should cause our bodies to respond in a proper way. Just as our hearts quietly pump away giving life to our bodies, so also our rhythm should quietly pulsate away giving life to our music. If our heart beats so loudly that we cannot pray, then obviously, we are sick. If the music is not right, then we have compromise. (From “The Heritage of Music” by David Bowler)
MUSIC EFFECTS ON MAN:
Music, all forms of music, basically affects man in four distinct ways. Music affects us:
GOOD MUSIC affects us well in these four areas, while BAD MUSIC has the exact opposite effect. DO NOT MAKE THE MISTAKE IN THINKING THAT MUSIC IS “GOOD MUSIC” JUST BASED UPON EXPERIENCE - HOW IT MAKES YOU FEEL, AND HOW I AFFECTS YOUR EMOTIONS. THIS COULD BE A CARNAL REACTION TO CARNAL MUSIC WITH CHRISTIAN LYRICS. THE LITMUS TEST FOR ANY MUSIC IS HOW IT AFFECTS OUR WALK WITH THE LORD. Does it promote holiness and sanctification, or the opposite?
GOSPEL CHORUSES VERSUS “PRAISE MUSIC”
On a Sunday evening last summer, a number of family members and I were visiting an independent Baptist church in the suburban Philadelphia area. The teens had just returned from camp, and were in charge of the evening service. Besides testimonies and preaching, there were also providing the music throughout the service. What followed so shocked me that words escape me in describing what were subjected to.
A teenage girl, of about 16 years of age, came to the platform dressed in skin-tight jeans and a low, revealing neckline, and proceeded to belt out a “praise” song that could have passed for a nightclub act. I thought Judy Garland was entertaining us! My adult daughter, a highly accomplished musician herself, was sitting next to me, and I could see that she too was as embarrassed and uneasy as I was. The rock beat was almost overwhelming in its intensity and volume. This dear young woman was literally dancing and prancing as she sand the repetitive phrases over and over. It was almost hypnotic in its repetition. Her body movements surpassed the inappropriate. They were flat out indecent! He was not praising the Lord, but “performing” for the attention and adulation of the crowd. I turned my head away in unbelief. My family and I were sitting in the back of the auditorium, so we could see most of the congregation in front of us. They were moving physically right along with the music. There was kind of a frenzy in the place. I am not trying to be harsh here, for I began to weep in holy concern for my pastor friend and his people. My heart was broken by what I saw. I came away from this experience with a very thoughtful and pensive spirit. Is this a young pastor trying to appeal to an ecumenical crowd? Is this a novice preacher trying to give his folks what they want (carnal music to feed the body, not the soul)? No! This is a brother well into his 60’s trying to be relevant to today’s whims (READ EXODUS 32 and the account of Aaron’s behavior), desperately trying to hold on to his crowd of 500 folks or better. This is a preacher who has been prominent within the largest independent Baptist fellowship in America for many years - a man I love and care for. But, he has sold out to the pressure of the hour. My soul! God have mercy!
In another service, again in a prominent independent Baptist church in northern California, I witnessed the exact opposite form of “praise music”. This was slower paced music, highly repetitive, and highly charged emotionally. This is the kind of music that causes men and women to weep, but not over their sins, nor over the souls of others, but ONLY because the emotional manipulation of the music. It was later revealed to me that many of the members of this church were from charismatic backgrounds, and one of the leading teachers in their Bible institute had come to them from a large Four-Square Church in southern California. A church that slips doctrinally will also slip in its music. The mixed multitude, left untaught, will influence a church in its music and direction. The pastor of this particular church graduated from and independent Baptist Bible college that has produced more than a few men who have capitulated to the demands of carnal people wanting carnal music.
I truly love to sing the old Gospel choruses, and even some of the recent choruses written by godly men - choruses that honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ with a quiet dignity. I can well remember the thrill of standing with a group of close to 10 thousand people just 24 years ago in an evangelistic campaign, and singing the great Gospel choruses that mean something, and carry a right doctrinal message. I can remember as a teenager standing with over 80 thousand people at the old Veteran’s Memorial Stadium in Philadelphia, singing the great songs of the faith, and soul-stirring Gospel choruses written in the right meter, and with the right harmony, melody, and rhythm. We sang the great old choruses at camp meetings and at the old Presbyterian Christian Endeavor Youth meetings back in the late 50’s, and into the very early 60’s. That was in a time when we still had a semblance of godliness and reverence in our churches. American Christianity had not yet begun its long slide into “new age” apostasy. There was far less carnality in our assemblies, and a greater hunger for the things of God. But in recent years there has been a distinct change, and nowhere is this change more vividly reflected than the music employed in many of our fundamental churches. Too many Bible-believing churches are beginning to look like charismatic churches in their use of “praise music”, and this is not a good sign. This music contains many elements of the ”bad music” we have discussed in both Parts One and Two of this series of articles. It is music constructed of mostly chords and little real substantive melody. It is repetitive music that is unbalanced and inappropriate to worship to a serious fault. It is emotionally dangerous music, leaning towards a form of “altered states of consciousness”. According to some music experts, this is due to the repetitive nature. It is “body music”, meant to appeal to the motions and self-gratification. Much of the “praise music” of our day is not God-pleasing in content, but man-pleasing. It gives the “warm fuzzies”, but does not bring the true worshipful spirit into the assembly that most honors and glorifies the Lord. It is strange, unnatural music out of consonance with the beauty of holiness. When compared with God’s hymnbook, the repetitive cacophony of today’s “praise music” just does not pass the muster!
Again, I am not for dead liturgical music that promotes dead liturgical worship. I am not for dead formalism. I love and enjoy spirited Christian music that lifts the spirits, genuinely promotes praise and worship unto the Lord, prepares the heart for PREACHING, and honors and glorifies God in all. Music is so important to God that He spoke of it often in His Word, but established regulatory doctrine in its use and control, and inspired His hymnbook, the Psalms, as a guide to that which does truly honor Him. Let us examine our hearts, our music, our worship, and our methods of praise. May God be glorified.
Elements of Music - Seven Principles of Spiritual Music
What is spiritual music?
(1) It must be understandable.
"What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also." (I Corinthians 14:15)
(2) It must be under the control of the Holy Spirit.
"And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be ye filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:18-19)
(3) It must be to the Lord.
“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart TO THE LORD.” (Ephesians 5:19)
(4) It must be thankful.
"Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 5:20)
(5) It must be in the name of Jesus Christ.
" . . . in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 5:20b)
"And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus . . ." (Colossians 3:17)
" . . . whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." (I Corinthians 10:31)
(6) It must be based on the Word of Christ.
"Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." (Colossians 3:17)
(7) It must be sung with grace in the heart to the Lord.
" . . . singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." (Colossians 3:17)
Spiritual Music Glorifies the Lord
Too much that is called "Christian music" today does not pass the test of Scripture because it does not glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. Most contemporary Christian music pieces contain all of the elements of bad music described in the first two messages in this series. It is music that is sensual and appealing to the fallen nature of man. Consider this quote from an article written by Dr. Peter Masters in his recent article entitled, Worship in the Melting Pot.
New worship, or contemporary Christian worship, started in California in the late 1960s, when many hippies turned to Jesus Christ, becoming the “Jesus People.” They worshipped with the very same style of song which they had known as hippies. Various movements were formed to encourage this, among them the well-known Calvary Chapels.
This new worship consisted mostly of one-verse choruses, endlessly repeated. The words were simple - much simpler than those of a traditional children's chorus - and the themes were elementary. There was seldom any confession of sin or any doctrine. However well-intended, the new worship was not shaped or influenced by any biblical model of worship nor by general church practice.
It was a form of worship fashioned and conceived in the womb of hippie meditational mysticism, in which hippies in their hundreds and thousands would sit on Californian hillsides with eyes closed, swaying themselves into an ecstatic state of experience. Former hippies carried into their new Christian allegiance the method of seeking the emotional release or sensations to which they were accustomed, and no one showed them a better way.
The new worship rapidly advanced, merging with another stream of new songs written by those who simply wanted worship music to be like secular rock music. In other words, the latter wanted a “good time” in a worldly sense. We need to be aware that new worship sprang from these two stables, namely, hippie mysticism, and worldly Christianity. It was immediately incorporated into the charismatic movement, from which the vast majority of new worship songs have come.
Consider the following thoughts regarding the origins of music and the profaning of it by the fallen angel Lucifer.
Satan is mentioned in connection with musical instruments before his fall (Ezekiel 28:12-19). The mention of "thy tabrets and of thy pipes" in verse 13 is a possible reference to the fact that Lucifer, as the "anointed cherub," (verse 14), had the ability to produce music for the glory of God prior to his fall. He was the master musician of heaven. When he fell, he profaned the beauty of music created to praise and worship God, and inspired and influenced music in opposition to God. He has used fallen men as his conduit for anti-Christ, Luciferian music. He has duped, ever so subtly, even the professing church. What is being touted today as "praise music" is often aligned with Satan's profaned music forms. Satan has influenced fallen men to produce a counterfeit that "has a form of godliness, but denies the power thereof," that has turned men's hearts away from godliness and holiness, and has brought about a carnal generation in opposition to godliness.
Cain's offspring made musical instruments. The first mention of music among men is in Genesis 4:21. Cain's great-grandson, Jubal, "was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ." Thus men have made music from the earliest days after creation. God put music in the heart of man, but sin has often corrupted it.
Much of the contemporary Christian music of our day does not pass the test of Scripture because it does not glorify God, but rather the performers of the music. Note that God will not share His glory with any man, but it is often man that is being glorified in the music he sings and plays as the attention is drawn to the "performer" and not the Creator (Isaiah 42:8 - Acts 12:21-23).
Carnal music can best be described as music which is for the body (affects the senses - sensual music), as opposed to spiritual music which affects the soul and the heart of man, turning him God-ward. Music that merely affects the senses (sensual music) is not spiritual music that glorifies the God of Heaven. It draws attention to that which is on the earthly plane, not the spiritual.
The Bible Account of Music Used for the Glory of God:
- Moses and Israel sang in the wilderness (Exodus 15:1-21 - Numbers 21:17).
- Deborah and Barak sang at the downfall of Sisera (Judges 5:1-31).
- The Levites were organized to sing and make music in praise to God (I Chronicles 15:16).
- The Psalms contain 150 musical psalms to God all inspired to bring praise, honor and glory to Him.
- Israel sang when God fought against Moab and Amon (II Chronicles 20:14-23).
- David sang to comfort Saul (I Samuel 16:15-16, 23).
- The Israelite woman sang at the return of the armies from battle (I Samuel 18:6-7).
- David made many musical instruments and organized music for the worship of God (I Chronicles 23:5 - II Chronicles 7:6, 29:26; Amos 6:5).
- Solomon made musical instruments with which to praise, worship and honor God (I Kings 10:12 - II Chronicles 9:11- Ecclesiastes 2:8).
- Israel sang at the coronation of Joash (II Chronicles 23:12-13).
- Israel sang at the rededication of the Temple by Hezekiah (II Chronicles 29:20-36).
- Israel sang at the rededication of the rebuilt wall in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 12:42-47).
- Jesus sang with the disciples (Mark 14:26 - Hebrews 2:12).
- Paul and Silas sang praise to God in the jail (Acts 16:25).
- The earth will break forth in singing in the Millennium (Isaiah 14:7).
- There is singing in Heaven (Revelation 5:5-18; 14:2-3; 15:2-3).
It is apparent, then, that music plays a very important part in the worship system prescribed by God. This music, because it is for the holy purpose of glorifying the Lord, would of necessity have to be different from the worldly music inspired by the fallen angel Lucifer.
Sensual music produces sensual results. The lyrics applied to the world's music forms can be pseudo-spiritual, but the music form, being worldly in rhythm and beat, continues to bring about carnal results. It is music for the body, not the soul. Even if the words are Scriptural to any degree, they will be nullified and neutralized by the carnality and beat of the music form to which they are applied. This is a nifty little trick Satan has employed for over 6,500 years to dupe and destroy. Consider the following:
- Israel made music when they committed idolatry and immorality. The form of music, not the words alone, drove the sensual responses and wicked behavior of the people. It was music for the body (Exodus 32:4-6; 17-19; 25).
- Nebuchadnezzar required music to be played at his idolatrous festival (Daniel 3:4-16).
- The wicked made music to entertain themselves in rebellion to God (Job 21:12-14).
- The wicked make music in connection with moral debauchery (Isaiah 5:11-12; 24:8-9; Amos 6:5-6).
- The rebellious Babylonian world system loves music that defiles (Ezekiel 26:13; Revelation 18:22).
What about the claim that many of the hymns contained in our traditional hymnals were adapted from secular music sources, or even barroom music? Beloved, this claim is wholly unfounded. Consider the following thought:
Barroom tunes for hymns? This is an oft-repeated claim. It implies that it was the general practice of earlier hymn writers to wed sacred words with secular tunes--and not just any secular tunes. The contention is that they purposely used the music of the rowdy beer hall crowd, so the people who frequented such places would be attracted to the gospel.
But is that historically accurate? It may be for some a comforting and convenient notion, but is it true? If not, repeating it over and over will not somehow make it true. I heard this claim so often years ago that one day I took a large hymn book and went through it, checking every tune. I failed to find any melodies that could clearly be called “barroom tunes.”
If you study the history of the hundreds of tunes currently found in our hymn books (as I have done) here is what you will discover. A large percentage of the melodies for the hymns we sing were written especially for their texts, or were borrowed from earlier hymns.
Those that did not originate in this way come to us from a variety of sources. Some are of unknown or uncertain origin. A very small number were adapted from Christian oratorios or operatic melodies. And a few are recognized as adaptations of traditional ballads or folk melodies . . . . (Copied)
There is certainly no evidence that points to the sacred hymns that we sing in our Baptist churches came from overtly secular sources, or from barroom songs, etc. Indeed, a careful study of sacred hymnody would prove otherwise. Certainly there are those hymns contained in our hymnals with lyrics that do not comport with Baptistic doctrine in the whole, but that does not mean that we cannot sing these great old tunes. I would remind you here that many of the hymns that we Baptist folk love were not written by Baptists, and yet they are God-honoring and worthy of use in our Baptist churches.
There are those good men who would disagree with me, but I have no issue with music written by contemporary (in our time – in our present day) composers that meet the criteria of good music, and have sound doctrinal lyrics. I have even heard criticism of some Ron Hamilton compositions being used for “special music.” This, of course, does not pass muster with me. There are many good compositions and arrangements written by good men that can be used in our Baptist churches. But I have heard a lot of criticism come from men who have no sound ground upon which to stand in their rejection of good contemporary compositions. Hyper-isolationists and hyper-separatists can go way too far in their condemnation of good music written by present day composers with absolutely no biblical principle upon which to base their criticism and protest.
What this issue of music really boils down to is a matter of doctrine. I believe the first indication that a fellowship, church, movement, or any Christian body is departing from sound doctrinal practice is the adoption of the wrong kind of music. That this music has become a hotly contested issue in many circles of evangelical and fundamental Christianity today tells its own story. When men, even good men, take a defensive posture regarding their favor of contemporary Christian music, I know they have raised up for themselves a new "golden calf" to worship. And music, like so many other things, has become an idol as opposed to a means of true worship directed towards a holy and righteous God. May we approach this matter with kindness and grace, but let us at least approach it.